Why learn vocabulary?
English vocabulary is arguably the most important aspect of English preparation for any exam worth it’s salt. It is generally assumed that more words you know, better grasp on the subject you will have.
An extensive vocabulary comes in handy not only for synonyms and antonyms problems but it is also essential if you want to solve idioms and phrases, fill in the blanks, cloze test and sometimes error detection and even reading comprehension also.
One mistake that most aspirants do is they underestimate the role of vocabulary in their English preparation. They assume that the vocabulary for English is only worth 10 or 20 marks. The truth couldn’t be far from it. If the English paper is of 200 marks then I’d say that Vocabulary is of entirely 200 marks. If you don’t know the most important words of a language, how can you expect to excel in that exam?
This all must be sounding very big talk to you so I’d start by drawing from own experience and tell you in detail. By the way, I have already made a detailed video on this topic. You can watch it here –
If you are in a hurry, you can read the article below which summarizes this video.
When I started my English preparation for English, I searched for ways to learn vocabulary on the Internet. The most popular method was to cram word lists of most popular GRE words (3500 words). I started doing that religiously but within 10 days, I was fed up. The reason was that this approach was highly tedious, inefficient and outright bad for several reasons, some of which I have mentioned below-
- It is not practically feasible for a normal person to cram so many words in such a short time.
- The vocabulary words crammed in this way are fed into the passive memory meaning which you can’t recall them when you need but which you can recall its meaning once you encounter it.
- The words in the passive memory do not correlate with each other so easily so it would be very difficult to recall antonyms and synonyms.
- Some of the words give different meanings when paired with different prepositions. Such word phrases (word + preposition) are known as a phrasal verb. Therefore learning the meaning of a word does not guarantee that you know its meaning. Consider these sentences –
- Don’t monkey with my laptop.
- Don’t monkey around the house.
Its easy to gauge the meaning of both the bold words from the context of the sentences but if I had given you only the word monkey, then it would have been very difficult for you to guess its meaning (Word monkey here is used as a verb, not a noun which means ape).
A better approach
Needless to say, I abandoned this approach and sought some other methods for the preparation of vocabulary. Then I stumbled upon the book Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis for English Vocabulary.
1. Root Words
This book is a bible for students who want to start their vocabulary journey. The approach taken by the author is very straight forward and there are plenty of exercises that you would have to solve before proceeding to the next chapter.
One novel thing that this book teaches is the learning of words through their roots which help us learn the relevant 10 or 20 more words. This approach is highly beneficial from the point of view of the exam and will help you learn 500-600 words in just about a month if you work sincerely.
I used to do about 2-3 chapters per day which used to take me up to 2 hours. There are about 46 chapters in the book so it took me around 20 days to complete the book. One thing to note here is that this book won’t teach you all the words that you need to know to clear SSC exam. You should also read a newspaper and scan difficult words from there in addition to this.
Other than teaching me so many words, this book did something else. It ignited the love of English words in me and prompted me to read more and more.
Buy Word Power Made Easy book by Norman Lewis here – https://amzn.to/3gXJo8d [Affilicate link].
2. Read a newspaper and find out difficult words
This is the most important technique which I used to learn upto 40-50 words in a day. But the best thing about it is that I used to retain the meanings of all the words that I learnt.
I used to take up a newspaper and read a fairly simple article (whose overall meaning I knew) and then went on to find out the meaning of difficult words from the context. Just like the example shown above, Even if you didn’t know the meaning of phrases monkey with or monkey around, you guessed them right from the context.
The beauty of this method is that the story that you build around a phrase or word remains in your memory far more than the phrase alone could have. Furthermore, you now also know the preposition which goes with this verb which will help you in the fill-in-the-blanks problems.
Additionally, you just observed the word being used in a sentence, so you know how this word is used which also means that you will yourself be able to use these phrases in your own sentences.
In reading a newspaper, you will also encounter several idioms being used with their usages, so you wil instinctively get a feeling of their meaning.
Thus the advantages of this approach are enormous. You just have to start doing it and see the difference in just one month.
To get maximum out of your studies, you should also make a word list in your copy by your own handwriting which will also help you imprint those words in your memory. Once you start doing that, take a quick glance at them once in a while and before starting for the next day. You will immediately feel the difference.